the naughty class, by brooke w

It started with a package of blank, hardcover books from the teacher supply shop. Since Brooke loves to draw and had taken to stapling her drawings together into books, I thought that book making might be a fun activity for her upcoming play date with one of the girls from her adaptive dance class. Not only would it keep them busy, I reasoned, but it would give Addy something to bring home with her when she left.

Addy was all for it. She wrote and illustrated a fabulous (and hilarious) tale of a family meeting Katy Perry, and, if memory serves, hiring her as a babysitter after a concert. It was bursting with creativity. After each page’s completion, she came to share it with us. It was everything that I’d hoped it would be. Well, sort of. Brooke showed no interest in making a book or even in Addy’s book. She drew on one page, mailing in the effort at best, and was done.

Or not.

That play date was a couple of months ago. I couldn’t even have told you where the blank books had gone since. But this past weekend, without a word to anyone, Brooke dug them out and went to work. While everyone in the house was busy doing their own things, she made a book. A really kinda awesome book. And when she was done, she told me that she wanted to bring it to her friend, Ana’s house to show it to her. “Because she’ll like it,” she said.

She agreed to read it to me — and let me photograph it — first. This, my friends, is Brooke’s book, The Naughty Class. 

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{Image is a photo of the front cover of the book. Atop the page is the title, “The Naughty Class.” There is a clock in the top right corner. In the center of the page, there is a tall figure who we will later learn is the school principal and a short one, who we will find out is a student. Both are facing the reader and smiling. On the bottom of the page, it says, By …  and Brooke’s real name is covered by a piece of paper.}

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{Image is a photo of the first page of the book. A teacher stands in front of two sitting students. All of them are smiling. The text reads, “The class wasn’t listening.”}

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{Image is a photo of the second page of the book. A boy stands alone, facing the reader. He is smiling. The text reads, “Oh no: said Max. We have to listen.”}

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{Image is a photo of the third page of the book. A student stands next to the teacher. The student’s mouth is turned down in a frown. The teacher’s mouth is drawn as two arches, resembling an M. Her eyebrows are turned inward to indicate anger or frustration. Despite the anatomical implausibility of her arm being approximately 2/3 the length of her body, the teacher’s arm extends down to the student and her hand appears to be on her shoulder. The text reads, “Shut up: screamed Hallie. The teacher sent Hallie to the princapil’s (sic) office.”}

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{Image is a photo of the fourth page of the book. The depiction of Hallie and the principal  is nearly identical to the one on the cover, except that the principal’s arms are open as if she is asking a question. The text reads, “Why are you here?: asked the principal.”}

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{Image is a photo of the fifth page of the book. The image is nearly the same, but Hallie’s mouth is now open and there are lines extending from it to indicate that she is talking. The principal’s mouth is now an “O” to indicate her shock and her arms have mysteriously vanished. The text reads “Shut up, the teacher sent me.: said Hallie.”}

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{Image is a photo of the sixth page of the book. The image remains very similar, but now the teacher’s mouth is open and there are lines extending from it to indicate that she is talking. Hallie is frowning. Also notable is the fact that, while they are both still facing the reader, at least one of the principal’s arms has reappeared and is extended toward Hallie. The text reads, “Nobody talks to Ms. Bakaysa that way: said the principal.”}

Ed Note: Perhaps this would be a good time to say that if this all sounds a bit familiar, well, there’s a good reason for that. It’s based on one of Brooke’s all time favorite scripts, “Shut up and trouble.” She can often be found searching YouTube for various iterations of it. Here’s ours.

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{Image is a photo of the seventh page of the book. Hallie is now standing next to another student. The text reads, “Hallie can go back.”}

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{Image is a photo of the eight page of the book. Two students stand next to each other, facing the reader and smiling. They are dressed as princesses. Text reads, “Everyone had choice time at school.”}

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{Image is a photo of the ninth page of the book. A student stands alone facing the reader. She is smiling. The text reads, “The class was nice now.”}

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{Image is a photo of the tenth page of the book. It is a picture of a clock, next to which stands the student from the previous page. The text reads, “It was time to go home.”}

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{Photo is an image of the back cover of the book. Hallie stands alone, facing the reader. She is smiling. Text reads, “The End.”}

We brought the book to Ana’s house when we went for what has become our weekly play date. Ana’s mom wrote later to tell me that we’d left it behind by mistake. I told Brooke that we’d forgotten it and assured her that we’d get it next week. “No!” she said emphatically. “It’s for her.”

As abrupt as it might be, I’m ending here. Because, well, this awesomeness really doesn’t need any more of my words. Oh, except these …

This is what Brooke teaches me again and again. Doesn’t work now doesn’t mean Won’t work ever. I’ve finally learned that if I present something to her and it doesn’t work – even if it’s a complete and utter disaster, I need to leave it open as an option in the future. She comes back to things days, weeks, months and sometimes years after our first introduction. Sometimes, she’s just not ready. Sometimes she needs time to process a new idea. But nothing — and I mean nothing — ever escapes her notice or leaves that beautiful steel trap of a brain once it’s in there. And when she’s ready and she takes off running, well, it’s really kinda awesome.

10 thoughts on “the naughty class, by brooke w

  1. See, I did recognise the script instantly from your previous post with the video. But at the same time, I noticed the differences and wondered whether poor Hallie was an autistic child in her class. The kids are all being noisy. She tells them to shut up. She ends up being the one who gets in trouble. And, well, I can totally imagine my daughter a few years down the line, attempting to say “I am here because I told everyone to shut up, and the teacher sent me” but actually only managing to come out with “Shut up, the teacher sent me”.

    Or maybe that’s me reading too much into it…

  2. This is the first time I’ve ever seen video of Brooke. From reading about her I’m always so amazed at how much she reminds me of my girl who is 10 and also has autism. But the video…. I am blown away. I’m tearing up and I have no idea why except that I have never seen any other child come close to being like mine until now. We really aren’t alone. Thank you so much for sharing your story and hers.

  3. I’ve noticed with my boys, too, that everything happens in their time, and they respond to things much later than I would expect (usually long after I’ve forgotten about it, too). And they usually take notice of and script the most beautiful sentences or phrases out of books or movies, words that seem mundane when jumbled up and lost in a story, but when separated and highlighted in a script, the words are powerful and amazing, and I wonder how I never noticed them myself. It’s quite humbling to be raising children whose perceptions cause them to hone in on hidden beauty. On a side note: I’ve always known from your pictures that Brooke is a beautiful girl, but in video? She’s even more beautiful in motion!

  4. I have said this to all of my son’s teachers, plant the seed, it may not look like he has made a connection but I promise you he heard it and it is germinating, you just need to give it time. Plant the seed, give it time, space and TLC then watch it grow!

  5. My son Quentin remembers everything that he has ever played with, gone to or drawn or watched on TV or DVD or YouTube. We have spent the last 8 months at Seattle Children’s Hospital and my husband had to bring our large storage container full of Every picture Q has ever drawn and colored in the past 12 years, he’s 15. So I understand that this “seed” that gets planted just grows and grows like the beanstalk. But these things that he remembers get him through very tough times. I know I kind of got off the track here but I can relate with everything that you all are saying. You plant the seed and when he’s ready to use it or do it, he will pull it out of his brain and use it appropriately. Anyway, thank you for all you write every day. It helps so much to know that there are other parents out there that are raising these wonderful kids and they teach us something new every day! And they are amazing!!!

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